The Psychology Of Dressing Like A Hipster

Photographed by Sara Kerens.
The hipster aesthetic may be constantly evolving, but at its core, it's about defying the mainstream. So, then, why do the skinny-jeaned masses seem to dress so similarly? A new paper might explain why the "Hipster Effect" is so inescapable, says Vocativ.
The paper, published online last week by a (clearly bitter) mathematical neuroscientist named Dr. Jonathan Touboul, attempts to explain why a philosophy built on nonconformism has come to breed conformity. "Although their look progressively evolves," the author concedes, "2014 hipsters all look alike." To address this, he attempted to develop a mathematical model that plots when and how people would act according to a "hipster" vs. "mainstream" aesthetic.
What Dr. Touboul turned up was something similar to a simple, commonly-used financial model called the "minority game." The best way to explain this: Consider the example of deciding whether to visit a bar that is often extremely crowded. (In this model, we're taking "crowded" as factor to be avoided, but kudos to all you cool kids who brave the LES on a Friday night). Some people might remember that the bar was crowded earlier, so they'll reason it won't be crowded now — and they'll head on over. Others might read the previously crowded bar as a perpetually crowded bar, and will opt to stay in. Here, you win by doing the opposite of what the majority of people do: going to the bar when most people decide not to, and staying home when the majority goes out. The goal is to be in the minority — to be a nonconformist — as much as possible.
This is hard to do.
Take the case of the hipster: Of course, it's impossible to detect peers' choices in real time. So, there will always be some delay in picking up or casting off a trend. During this delay, even hipsters will be stuck making the same choices — rather than acting like the individualistic early-adopters they aim to be. And, whether they are choosing to align or disagree with the majority opinion, the hipsters' decisions will still be directed by that opinion.
So, no matter what you do, you'll still be following a trend. Is the thirst for an individual style a dead end? Not necessarily. If you're still aiming to be a nonconformist, you've just got to be extra-quick on the uptake. Or, you could simply not play the game: Don't worry about public opinion, go where your fashionable heart takes you, and just do you. We think you look pretty great, with or without a flower crown.

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